It’s not a stretch to say everyone likes a little recognition, and recognizing positive behavior has a way of catalyzing more positive behavior. I was just at ITB Berlin, where the 2017 World Legacy Award winners were announced. This program does just this by serving as a platform to award and recognize companies, destinations and hotels that are proactively advancing in sustainability. The program started three years ago, by National Geographic Society, in partnership with ITB Berlin. Hotels are awarded for being leaders in environmentally friendly operations, protection of natural and cultural heritage, as well as supporting the well-being of local communities. The stories of the winners get told and retold, spreading best practices for more hotels to catch on to the positive behavior, and I’d like to retell their stories as well.
One of the most notable winners of 2017 to me was Slovenia. It’s an amazing achievement to make one building environmentally friendly let alone an entire country. The Slovenian Tourist Board has an impressive and ambitious goal to make their entire nation one of the most sustainable nations in the world. An interesting fact that I learned at the conference, Slovenia is one of the most biodiverse countries in Europe with more than 350 designated conservation sites. The goal seems quite feasible as the tourism board equips the country with the Green Scheme. The Scheme aligns all sustainability efforts and provides guidelines and tools for making it all happen. Slovenia has experienced healthy growth in tourism and expected to continually grow. Plans like the Green Scheme well prepare the country to embrace even higher growth in tourism while keeping their natural heritage and environmental intact for everyone to enjoy for more years to come.
Another winner to highlight is the Cayuga Collection, a management company based in Central America. With eight luxury hotels and lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, this company breaks the misconception that luxury and sustainability don’t go together. Cayuga Collection demonstrates commitment to protecting and preserving the natural environment and communities. Waste water is treated to irrigate the gardens to conserve fresh water, solar panels are used to heat water, and plastic bottles and straws are no longer used to reduce plastic waste. On the community front, Cayuga Collection works to protect endangered species such as the feline population found in Costa Rica as well as provide educational opportunities for children in the areas near the hotels and lodges.
The World Legacy Awards is a global platform while there are regional specific programs such as the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) Sustainable Hotels Awards for Asia Pacific. HICAP Sustainable Hotels Awards has been around since 2007. Its objective is to give recognition to hotel operations and developers in the Asia Pacific region for their advancement and commitment to sustainable practices. The HICAP Sustainable Hotels Awards have three categories, similar to the World Legacy Awards. The categories are sustainable project design, sustainable operations and sustainable communities. HICAP occurs annually in October.
In 2016, The Temple House in Chengdu, China won the sustainable project design award. One of the most interesting aspects about the architectural design of the Temple House is the incorporation of social and planning sustainability principles rather than for the physical elements of sustainability in building design. The hotel’s ground floor is strategically integrated with the Chengdu Daci Temple Cultural and Commercial complex. The seamless design of the hotel and connection to the historic buildings enhances the surroundings and preserves the local heritage.
One of the winners in the sustainable operations category, ITC Grand Chola Chennai is a 600-key hotel covering over 1.6 million square feet of gross floor area. Also, defying the misconception that luxury and sustainability don’t marry well, ITC Grand Chola Chennai focuses on efficiency and low-carbon footprint in their operation. Some of the noteworthy practices include implementation of green roofs with reflective paint, advanced HVAC technology proven to be 20 per centÊmore efficient compared to their baseline, efficient climate controls, onsite food waste composting and wastewater treatment, native vegetation to minimize water use for irrigation. Furthermore, almost 99 per centÊof waste is reused or recycled and 100 per centÊof irrigation, flushing, and cooling tower water needs are met through wastewater treatment. Most impressive of all, 66 per centÊof the hotel’s energy comes from renewable sources including solar heating panels and wine turbines.
For the sustainable communities award, Nikoi Island located in Riau Province, Indonesia won for the establishment of the Island Foundation. The Foundation plays an integral role in the community by providing education and skills training opportunities for both children and adults. To date, the Foundation has been able to get more than 500 children to register at the six learning centers. They estimate around 8,000 villagers to have benefited from the Foundation funded programs.
Finally, there is the Green Hotelier Award conducted by International Tourism Partnership. They also receive applications from around the world. Among the applicants, there were hotels that stood out as leaders, recycling waste despite not having a formal municipal recycling program in place, having positive impact to the surrounding communities, providing opportunities for their employees to progress, and reducing overall consumption of energy and water and waste output.
There were four winners in 2016 including Cayuga Collection. We already know Cayuga Collection’s impressive achievements. It’s no wonder they won again at the World Legacy Awards 2017. Other winners included London Heathrow Marriott. This hotel was able to achieve zero percent waste to landfill as well as reduce water consumption in the kitchen by 92 per cent. The Intercontinental Sydney gets a shout out for implementing a 65 sub-meters around the hotel to track and monitor energy consumption and maximize efficiency.
These sustainability award programs are a great platform for spreading best practices for the hotel industry. By awarding and giving recognition to the sustainability leaders, the stories spread for more hotels to follow suit. I would like to reassure hotels that are just beginning their sustainability journey to not be intimidated by the achievements of the winners. Instead, learn what types of sustainable operations are out there and figure out what would work best today. Implementing sustainable operations should be undertaken in phases.
These are just a handful of best practices available for hotels. In fact, there are hundreds of best practices ranging from low hanging fruit to complex ones. You can find plenty in the first annual Green Lodging Trends Report 2016. At Greenview, we encourage hoteliers to take the ÒgrowthÓ approach: everyone can grow and be better in the areas of sustainability. Whether the focus is to save costs, save time, enhance guest experience, or increase employee retention, there are plenty of best practices to choose from to grow year over year. The Green Lodging Trends Survey will open on May 1, participate to learn about the latest sustainable practices and get a free compare report. Even the ones who are considered proficient in sustainability will need to keep up to stay ahead of the game.
By Grace Kang
Grace is Managing Partner of Greenview, a sustainability consulting and research firm providing hospitality organizations with their strategy, programs, and reporting, and hospitality industry with industry insight, trends and benchmarks. She has a focused background in the hotel industry with over 15 years of experience in various functional roles, particularly in driving business through data analysis, reporting and strategic programs. She brings corporate perspective from working at top global hotel brands such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Marriott International.ÊGrace earned two degrees from Cornell University, a Bachelor of Science from the Hotel Administration School and Master of Business Administration from the Johnson Graduate School of Management.